How 9/11 Hits Me This Year

I’ve been meeting with a few guys every Friday morning for the last 14 years or so for Bible study and prayer.

These days, we’re more like a bunch of old gossips talking about life for the first 30 minutes of what now is a Zoom call Bible Study due to COVID-19.

We all reminisced about where we were when 9/11 happened nearly 20 years ago. All of us were at work, doing what seems like vastly different things than we’re doing now. Except for the guy who works for AT&T and recently got let go in one of their nearly annual staff prunings.

I was a youth pastor in Destin, FL at the time. It feels like lifetimes away from where I am now as an insurance broker mostly serving egg farmers.

I was single and kind of a mess. I was responsible for no one in particular as far as family was concerned. I was rudderless in a lot of ways despite my position as a youth pastor (a story for another day).

The details and timeline are fuzzy but I believe I started watching the news just before the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

It made whatever late 20s angst I was experiencing fade into the background extremely quickly. My concerns weren’t concerns. The world was dealing with some serious evil and upheaval. Families were in process of being upended.

I was just a selfish guy without a plan. Again… a story for another day.

I don’t think I completely understood what was happening, but I knew the world changed in a major way that day. But I had no context for exactly how.

Fast forward to today.

I have three children and a wife. A job that’s not leading folks in songs, going on retreats, and trying to encourage others (and myself) to live more like Jesus.

I do work that represents major stewardship of others’ assets. I am a major steward of the emotional and physical lives of four other people (wife, kiddos). I’ve got a dog and a new riding lawnmower.

Things have changed. And somehow, that makes the memory of that date, now 19 years ago, much more sobering.

The sheer surprise and devastation and unexpectedness of the tragedy is mind-boggling. The power of seeing something of such magnitude immediately does two things:

  1. It shrinks my concerns and puts them into new perspective
  2. It makes me realize the preciousness of so many things that I tend to take for granted, if not in my actual thoughts, but in my actions and my intentions.

My new tradition is to listen to the soundtrack of Come From Away, the Broadway musical based on real events after 9/11 when 38 planes had to be diverted to the town of Gander in Newfoundland due to the closure of the U.S. air space after the attacks.

The musical and soundtrack take you through a variety of stories where lives are upended, where lives are lost, new love kindled, and the power of generosity and kindness is on full display.

The musical reminds me that life and those around me are, above all, precious.

Since I’m a much more responsible fellow than I was back then, this whole year has faced me with the brutal gravity of my position in the lives of those closest to me and even to those I serve at work and in my community.

I’m a steward. I have to steward well. It’s always going to be temporary (stewardship and leadership) which makes it even more compelling to me to do a good job in every opportunity I have to do so. I don’t always. But I make the effort and cherish reminders to do better and better.

Today, I pray that we remember. We don’t forget. And we’re changed because we do remember and sit in the truth of what happened and how we can do better for ourselves, those closest to us, and the world around us.

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